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Ofcom increases number of TV channels with subtitle targets

Monday, June 22nd 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Ofcom has set out which TV channels will have to provide subtitles, signing or audio description on a percentage of their programming in 2016.

Certain channels are required to provide what are known as access services to help people with sensory impairments understand and enjoy TV programmes.

Ofcom is responsible for deciding which channels are affected and to what extent they are expected to meet the regulator’s annual targets.

83 UK channels will be required to provide access services in 2016, including six channels that did not in 2015 – BBC Alba, ITVBe, ITV Encore, Sky Sports 5, BT Sport 2 and Fox.

The channels account for 90% of the UK's TV audience share.

More than 20 timeshifted services such as ITV2 +1 and simulcast HD services such as ITV HD are also required to provide access services.

Most channels will have to provide subtitles for 80% of their programming, audio description for 10% and signing for 5%.

The subtitling target for ITV and Channel 4 is 90% and for the BBC channels, except BBC Parliament, it is 100%.

Sign-presented content

The BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky (excluding Sky’s sports channels) have committed to audio describing 20% of their content rather than the statutory 10%.

Some channels are also required to provide between 30 and 75 minutes of sign-presented content each month.

Ofcom’s requirements will also apply to 40 non-domestic channels broadcast in eight EU member states.

There are 11 such channels that had no obligation to provide access services in 2015 but will have to next year.

These are TV3 Sport in Denmark, AXN in Hungary, E4 in Ireland, Investigation Discovery and TLC in the Netherlands, Polish channels AXN White, 13 Ulica and Cartoon Network, and TV10 and Kanal 11 in Sweden.

Cable.co.uk reported earlier this month that deaf and blind campaigners are calling for access services targets to be applied to on demand content.

Thousands of people signed a petition asking digital minister Ed Vaizey to take action to stop people with sensory loss being excluded.

“New digital technologies have transformed the way people live, but I’m concerned that people with sensory loss are being left behind due to the lack of subtitles and audio description for 'on demand’ content, when streaming films or watching catch up TV,” said the petition.

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